As I am preparing to face the lady on my first oral history assignment I cannot help but think that that will be a challenge for me. On the phone she sounds self-assured and quite outspoken. She is Eastern-European and from what I have gathered she was a teacher in her native country but did not like the job and moved on to work in food industry. Her previous occupation was economist, however now she works for a private company as a cleaner.
My first concern is that during the interview as time goes on and the trust is being built up I might feel tempted to reminiscent with my interviewee on the past. If that happens and I let the conversation to flow by itself, than perhaps it would lose a momentum. Actually, if the fire alarm goes off and we have to flee the premises the same thing would happen- a broken flow of the interview will be difficult to restore. To avoid such sticky situations I will plan the questions extensively.
I have observed is that the lady seem to be proactive, “hands on” type. She is definitely someone who does not like to be told what to do, her conversations with me were brisk and pretty much matter of fact. She is articulate, strong-opinionated and slightly impatient. So before the interview takes place I will have to outline the purpose of it and point to its huge value for the project to encourage her to work on it. Most likely she will not let me have 90 minutes of her precious time even in the name of posterity! So I might try and get “Plan B” (a shorter one) ready. I will have to navigate in order to cover the most of the intended periods and topics. I may not be able to cover them all, as I may find something particularly interesting and get stuck there for longer. It is not about time management, or is it?
If I was to choose a topic for Oral history project it would be about shifts in public perception of governmental strategy in the Middle East in the 2000-es. I would like to explore the range of viewpoints across the society groups -“then” and “now”.
Some of the results of the Labour international policy have had lasting legacy and sparked public’ debates of the UK role and place in the world political affairs, freedom of information and the nature of the relationships between the political establishment and the public. The whole concept of modern war has been reviewed in terms of legitimacy and national interests, identification of the front-line, notion of modern “enemy” and the validity of the “winning” criteria, exposing deep dissatisfaction with the official outline of the UK involvement in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ongoing mass-digitalisation made possible, for the first time in modern history, to question actions and motives behind governmental decision-making and the state of leadership on a wider scale. For many ordinary people the feelings of being manipulated, alienated from the political process and denied their right for active citizenship prevailed, providing grounds for the alternative discourse which challenges official grand-narrative in the interpretation of events.
For the families of the servicemen, especially those who were wounded and killed in the actions or suffered PSD, those events became life-changing and I believe that their oral accounts hold an important ethical, historical and social value. The society paid high cost and the wounds have not been healed yet partly because of the alleged “cover up” of the inquiry. The oral history project would possibly allow to bring personal opinions to the surface to validate our recent past.